Terry Doll, who lives near Newell, said he was well-known as a “kook,” an intelligent man whose unpredictability stoked fear in some neighbors.
“When I found out about the shooting, we all looked at each other and said his name,” said Doll, 58, who has lived in her house for more than 30 years. “We certainly always hoped that he would have never done something like this.”
About 15 to 18 people had been at the meeting, including a Pocono Record reporter covering his first Ross Township meeting.
“The thing that got my attention: plaster flying out, blowing out through the walls. Witnesses would later tell me they saw pictures exploding away from the walls,” reported Chris Reber said in an account to his editors.
In June, the newspaper published an article describing an 18-year fight between the township and Newell over his property, which includes an old camper filled with wooden pallets, a leaning garage close to collapse and a propane tank inside an old dog house.
Township supervisors voted in February 2012 to take legal action against Newell for alleged zoning and sewer regulations. In October, he set up a fundraising page online to try to raise $10,000 for legal fees.
“Ross township took me to court & the court ruled I have to vacate my home of 20 years,” Newell wrote on the page. He said he lived on $600 a month in Social Security benefits and had no money to clean his property.
Newell told the newspaper he was unemployed for years after an injury from a crash and had nowhere else to go.
The state Department of Environmental Protection had ordered Newell in March to stop dredging on the property and restore the creek.
“He wasn’t happy about the situation, but he was cooperative,” department spokeswoman Colleen Connolly recalled.
Newell didn’t enter a plea at his arraignment on three homicide counts and two counts each of attempted homicide and aggravated assault. He was given a form for a public defender, but he did not request a lawyer. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Aug. 19.
Russell Kresge, a township supervisor who lives down the road from Newell and attended Monday night’s meeting, found it difficult to discuss what happened.
“This is a little township that always ran super,” he said from his front porch, a friendly Rottweiler by his side. Kresge’s wife said the dog could sense something was wrong with her master and was shedding abnormally.